Home » Humanity » Paleolithic. Olduvai epoch (3 million-800 thousand years ago).

Paleolithic. Olduvai epoch (3 million-800 thousand years ago).

This era got its name from the monuments of the Olduvai Gorge in Kenya (East Africa), discovered and explored by archaeologists Mary and Louis Leakey in the 60s of the XX century. The monuments of the early stage of this era, dating back to the Eopleistocene, are still few in number and are discovered mainly in Africa. In Europe, only one such monument has been discovered — the grotto of Vallone in France, but its early Pleistocene age is not indisputable. In the Caucasus, in Southern Georgia, the Dmanisi site, which has an age of 1.6 million years, is being investigated, where, in addition to a series of stone products, the jaw of Homo erectus was found.

Monuments belonging to the late Olduvai are more widely distributed — they are known in South and South-East Asia, in Europe. In Hungary, the Verteshsellesh site was discovered, where, along with the Olduvai tools, the bone remains of an archanthropus were also found. In the west of Ukraine, there is a multi-layered site of Korolevo, the lower layers of which can be attributed to the Olduvai time. The distribution of the Olduvai monuments allows us to judge the process of settlement of the oldest people from the original hearth of their origin in Africa on the territory of Eurasia.

Stone tools and their manufacturing techniques

Sometimes the Olduvai stone industry is called the culture of chipped pebbles, or pebble, but this is not quite correct, because in addition to pebbles, other stone raw materials were used. It should be noted that the tradition of making products by means of rough shingle pounding exists in some regions, for example in South and South-East Asia, throughout the Paleolithic era.

The technique of chipping a number of fairly large fragments from the original core, or blank, is called chipping. Chips, as a rule, are located along its perimeter and are directed to the center, thereby forming an edge. If the upholstery is processed on one side of the object, then the upholstery is called one-sided, and the object-monoface, if the upholstery extends to both surfaces, it is called two-sided, and the object — biface. The technique of one-sided and two-sided upholstery is particularly characteristic of the early archaeological eras, although it is present throughout the Stone Age. The technique of obbivki was widely used in the manufacture of nuclei, choppers, hand choppers.

The Olduvai era is characterized by three main groups of tools: polyhedra, choppers, and tools on flakes.

  1. Polyhedra are rough-cut, rounded stones with many facets obtained as a result of pounding. Among the polyhedra, discoids, spheroids, and cuboids are distinguished. It is assumed that they were striking tools and served for processing plant and animal food.
  2. Choppers and choppers are the most characteristic tools of the era. These are massive tools, made, as a rule, of pebbles, in which the end or edge forming the blade is cut and sharpened by several successive blows. When processing the blade on one side, the product is called a chopper, in cases where the blade is beaten on both sides — chopping. The rest of the surface of the weapon is not processed and is easy to hold in the hand; the blade is massive and uneven, has cutting and chopping functions. These tools could be used for cutting animal carcasses and processing plant materials.
  3. The tools on the flakes were made in several stages. Initially, a natural piece of rock was given a certain specific shape, i.e., a nucleus, or nucleus, was made. From such nuclei, short and massive chips, which are called flakes, were obtained by directed blows.
Tools that were made in the Olduvai era.

Tools that were made in the Olduvai era. Table. Tools that were made in the Olduvai era. 1-Striker (Chopper) cutting tool. Padded on one side. 2-Protorubilo (bifas) – cutting tool, trimmed on both sides. 3-A sharp point — – to pierce and dig. 4-Stone-anvil. On which other guns were hammered. 5-Spheroid-type of bump. 6-Hand chopper-to dig, chop and cut. 7-Bump block — for making other weapons. 8-Cutter-to skin and cut.

Then the flakes were subjected to special processing, the purpose of which was the formation of blades and working edges. One of the most common types of such secondary processing of stone is called retouching in archaeology: this is a system of small and minute chips that give the product the desired shape and working qualities.

Tools made of flakes are represented by scrapers, flakes with serrated and notched edges, and rough points. In addition, scrapers and incisors are extremely rare, but these types are widespread only in the Upper Paleolithic. All Olduvai tools are characterized by shape instability. Tools made of flakes could be used in various labor operations — cutting, scraping, piercing, etc.

It is worth noting that already at the initial stage of making tools, they are represented by a whole set of products that can provide people with a variety of plant and animal food, simple clothing and meet other needs, including the manufacture of other tools. The main technique in their manufacture is upholstery, and only for the design of some details, retouching is used. The size of the products usually does not exceed 8-10 cm, but occasionally there are larger ones.

Often the tools themselves have a seemingly random shape, but the techniques of processing the blades and working edges are quite stable and allow you to distinguish certain groups of products presented on different monuments. Their artificial origin is not in doubt among experts. Numerous tools are found in the cultural layers of Olduvai sites, as well as tools of later Stone Age epochs, which indicates their deliberate manufacture.

The monuments of the developed olduvai indicate that the oldest and longest (at least 1.5 million years) epoch of human history was characterized by a very slow progress in the technology of making tools. By the end of the olduvai, there are no major changes in the shape of the products and their set, only some enlargement can be noted.

The nature of the monuments

The natural environment of the Olduvai era in the territories of the distribution of monuments was very favorable, it was characterized by a warm climate and mixed landscapes (savanna, interspersed with forests) with a large number of reservoirs.

Monuments with a preserved cultural layer allow us to reconstruct the nature of these hunter-gatherer camps. In the cultural layers of the sites there are tools, waste products of their production, fragments of animal bones, which often show cuts made with stone knives. One of the oldest sites today is Koobi-Fora in East Africa, its absolute age is 2.8-2.6 million years.

The sites of the Olduvai era are represented by different types, but mostly they are the habitats of a collective consisting of several families, where hunting prey and the fruits of gathering were brought. Many of these camps were short-lived, but we can say that they were visited repeatedly. It is possible that even then there were primitive structures such as wind barriers and huts. So, at one of the sites in the Olduvai gorge, a circular structure made of pieces of basalt was discovered, having a diameter of 4.3 and 3.7 m and dating back to 1.75 million years ago. The distribution of the finds inside and outside the stone circle allows scientists to believe that this structure could be the remains (plinth) of a primitive building, which limited the distribution of cultural remains. Nearby was another area of concentration of stone tools and flakes, along with an accumulation of split bone — perhaps this site served as a place where the extraction of bone marrow for food was carried out. It is interesting to note that the stone raw materials for making tools were brought to the parking lot from a distance of several kilometers.

At the African site of Chesovanya, dating back to 1.4 million years ago, lumps of burnt clay rock were found, which allows us to see here the traces of the first development of fire.

Another type of camp is the slaughtering and primary butchering of animal carcasses, where flakes and tools are concentrated in and near bone accumulations. These accumulations, as a rule, are represented by bones from parts of carcasses of low nutritional value. On all the bones there are traces of cuts from stone knives, the tools also have signs of wear. These data were obtained using the tracological analysis of archaeological materials. Despite the extremely ancient age of the sites, the archaeological material allows us to speak of deliberate and planned human activity.

Judging by the degree of tooth wear, scientists suggest that the diet of Australopithecus and ancient humans resembled the diet of modern primates, based on coarse plant food. However, during periods of dry seasons, when the number of plants was greatly reduced, the share of meat consumption could increase dramatically. Thus, the earliest humans were omnivores.

The first humans were undoubtedly hunters, as evidenced by the cuts on the bones of animals, but they could also use carrion for food. Hunting was most likely carried out in areas of forested areas in river valleys, where trees could serve as places of shelter and ambushes. Judging by the data of the study of the cultural layers of Olduvai sites, people lived in relatively large groups and had quite complex social behavior and opportunities for developed communication with each other, most likely sign-sound.

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